Friday, July 10, 2015

Holy cheap (solid-state) bits, Batman!

Holy cheap (solid-state) bits, Batman!  Just read this piece about a new line of cheap SSD drives from Toshiba.  Looked them up on Amazon, and sure enough: they're selling for just 37¢ per gigabyte.  That's kind of mind-boggling for an ancient and venerable geek like me, who bought his first brand-new hard drive at the price of $240,000 per gigabyte (that was for a Quantum 10MB disk at $2,400).

The volume difference is kind of amazing, too.  The Toshiba SSD packs 980GB into 3.28 cubic inches.  Those Quantum 10MB disk were 440 cubic inches each, and I'd have needed 98,000 of them to equal that Toshiba disk's capacity.  That would be a total of 43,120,000 cubic inches, or roughly 25,000 cubic feet – a cube 30' on each side solidly packed with disk drives.  You'd have to have a specially reinforced floor to hold that weight, and I don't even want to think about the power bill.  Those old hard disks failed quite often, so I suspect I'd have to employ a couple of people just to replace the failed units.

Then there's the performance aspect.  The Toshiba SSDs are just stupid fast by comparison with those ancient Quantum disks – which were just stupid fast by comparison to the 8" floppy disks we used to use before the Quantum disks arrived.  And the Toshiba SSDs aren't even fast SSDs!

Here's the real kicker, though.  I'm ancient and venerable enough to remember my own reaction upon seeing those Quantum disk drives for the first time.  It was approximately the same as my reaction to these Toshiba SSDs :)  How can that be?  Well, consider this.  The first storage device that I ever encountered, during my U.S. Navy training in the early '70s, was a “high speed” mercury acoustic delay line memory system. I also worked on magnetostrictive delay line memories, described in the same article.  If I remember correctly, the mercury delay machine had 512 18-bit wide words.  That machine was the size of a couple of large refrigerators, and it weighed perhaps three tons.  By comparison to that machine, those Quantum hard disks were just as amazing then as the Toshiba SSDs are today...

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